Bringing Light to the Darkness of Human Trafficking (Trafficking in Persons)

Jessica Vinje is on trial for human trafficking, sex assault, assault, forcible confinement

 jessica nyome louise ninje
Jessica Nyome Louise Vinje is on trial on numerous charges stemming from an incident in late 2017. (Calgary Police Service)

The victim of five days of confinement, sex slavery and "torture" inside a Calgary apartment is testifying about the terrifying experience at the trial for the woman who is accused of being the ringleader. 

Jessica Vinje, 30, is on trial for six offences including human trafficking and forcible confinement.

Her alleged victim, a woman who can only be identified as KM in order to protect her identity, took the stand on Wednesday.

"I cried a lot," said KM, who testified with the Calgary police service trauma dog, Cali, at her side. The victim said she was fed only twice in five days, had to beg to use the bathroom and was held in a room the size of a walk-in closet.

KM began crying when she described how Vinje would sell her to her friends, at times allowing up to five men at a time  assault the confined victim and filming the attacks. KM was pregnant at the time.

"I told Jessica that I was pregnant ... she didn't care," said KM. "She would offer me for $20."

Victim worried beatings would trigger seizures

Two youths earlier pleaded guilty to charges in connection with the sex trafficking of KM.

On Dec. 8, 2017, the woman, who is in her 20s, said she was working as an escort when she made arrangements to meet a man at a downtown Calgary apartment.

Once there, a teenager met her in the lobby and brought her to the third floor apartment where, once inside, she was punched in the face and had a gun pulled on her, KM told prosecutor Donna Spaner.

On top of the pain and the terror she felt, there was an additional concern; KM suffers from epilepsy and has grand mal seizures. She was worried the violence would trigger her condition.

"It was very traumatic," said KM.

With a gun pointed at her head, KM was ordered to strip.

"I was doing whatever she told me to do," she testified.

KM suffered near-constant beatings from Vinje and others in the apartment, the witness said. 

Before she was sold for sex, KM said the physical violence made the experience feel like "more of a torture."

Vinje, she said, began telling her friends it was "discount day" and would offer KM's sexual services.

When she needed the washroom, KM said she had to beg. One time she was allowed to shower.

"Jessica was advertising me, eventually, to do sex work, so it was a requirement that I was taken into the shower."

Victim told she'd be shot

KM left the apartment once during her time there.

Days into her captivity, KM heard Vinje making plans to sell her to a man for $500. She said Vinje and the others put a ski mask over her face and marched her at gunpoint down to the parking lot and into a car. 

When the deal fell through, Vinje and one of the teens began talking about shooting KM. She said she believed she would die that day.

"I told them I had a two-year-old daughter and I asked if I could call her to say goodbye and Jessica laughed and said 'no,' KM said through tears. "That's the thing that causes me the most trauma."

She said she felt relief when Vinje brought her back to the apartment.

"I never thought being in that room that something could be worse, but when I got back to that apartment, I was so happy to be put back in there."

'No one came looking for me'

KM couldn't say how many men she was forced to have sex with — there were about 10 people who answered Vinje's online ads, said the victim, but there were too many of the captors' friends to count.

At times she was "passed around" between up to five people in the room waiting to take their turn.

Feeling under constant threat of beatings and a gun that Vinje had pointed at her, KM said she tried to escape just once by passing a note to a man who had paid Vinje to have sex with her.

KM had been able to get a piece of paper to "pass the time" from a teenage girl who was helping hold her in the apartment. KM then tore the paper up in tiny pieces so nobody would notice if one of them was missing.

She wrote her name, location and a friend's name and address. It also said she needed medical help.

After KM had sex with with the client, she said she began crying and handed him the tiny note.

KM didn't know what happened with the man and the note but said "no one came looking for me." 

The escape

On the morning of Dec. 13, 2017, KM woke up and noticed the apartment was "unusually quiet." So she cracked the door open and saw one of the teens sleeping. KM poured a glass of water to see if he would wake up. When he didn't, she bolted.

"I just ran," said KM. "I ran out, I ran down the back stairs, I ran out the front door and I ran across the street."

Her eyes were so swollen and infected from being punched over and over, she couldn't open one of them and the other she could only see blurry shapes out of the corner. 

KM held her hand up and ran across the street, hoping she wouldn't be hit by a car.

Her whole body hurt from the constant beatings but her eyes were in the worst shape.

"It was the most pain I've ever experienced in my life and I've given birth twice," said KM.

Toward the end of her time being held, KM said her eyes were so swollen and infected she could only identify people by their blurry shoes and voices so "I knew if I was going to get beat up or if it was going to be a sex situation" based on who entered the room.

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